February 8, 2007

False Bomb Threats Can Carry Serious Consequences

Across the nation last week schools, stores, government buildings and even roads and bridges were closed – not because of poor weather or a natural disaster.

Thousands of people were evacuated, thousands of dollars were wasted and millions of lives were impacted because false bomb threats were received.

Scotland County R-I High School was evacuated on January 30th after such a threat was phoned into the facility during a varsity basketball game. Two days later it was Quincy, IL, where similar threats were issued against the high school and other local facilities. Across the United States dozens of schools faced the same problem, while countless other commercial sites, governmental buildings and transportation venues also were shut down because of such threats.

A check of the headlines reveals similar emergencies happening nationwide not just last week, but on a much more regular basis.

The media is quickly a target of the public, which rapidly is becoming fed up with such actions that are costing valuable time and money while diverting emergency service workers from more needed areas of service. This ire focuses on copycat actions, with high increases in such activities once the news breaks on the television or the radio about a bomb threat.

Any member of the media would agree that it is the duty of the press to keep the public informed. News programs and articles often focus on the who, what, where, when and how of the incident and fail to discuss the consequences of such actions.

Under Missouri Statute 575.090, a person commits the crime of making a false bomb report if he knowingly makes a false report or causes a false report to be made to any person that a bomb or other explosive has been placed in any public or private place or vehicle.

Making a false bomb report is a class D felony, which in Missouri is punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Many of these crimes are committed by juveniles. However under Missouri law the court system can certify a juvenile as an adult in felony cases. Section 211.071 states, “If a petition alleges that a child between the ages of 12 and 17 has committed an offense which would be considered a felony if committed by an adult, the court may, upon its own motion or upon motion by the juvenile officer, the child or the child’s custodian, order a hearing and may, in its discretion, dismiss the petition and such child may be transferred to the court of general jurisdiction and prosecuted under the general law.”

If the accused is a student, the penalty also can carry over on the educational front. Under the Missouri State Schools Act, Section 167.161 of the Missouri Statutes states, “The school board of any district, after notice to parents or others having custodial care and a hearing upon the matter, may suspend a pupil upon a finding that the pupil has been charged, convicted or pled guilty in a court of general jurisdiction for the commission of a felony criminal violation of state or federal law.”

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